This is strange one but good–one of those movies where you suspect there’s some kind of deep & heavy symbolic, philosophical, sociopolitical point or commentary being made, but you can’t quite grasp what it might be. Movies like this sometimes irritate me because I’m never sure if the problem is me, the movie, or both.
I want a good analogy for this. The best I can do is this–imagine a box full of puzzle pieces. You’re told there are enough pieces for 2 complete pictures, but you aren’t given the pictures, just the puzzle pieces. Ready? Go. Could you do it, or would you decide it’s not worth the effort? Would you feel stupid if you couldn’t do it, or would you decide the missing information creates an unreasonable cognitive burden?
That’s how I feel about a number of movies, and the results vary. It made me hate The Lobster. To be fair, alotta stuff made me hate The Lobster. On the other hand, it didn’t bother me so much with Most Beautiful Island.
In this case, lack of information makes the threatening underground aspect of the story even more compelling in the sense that we don’t know any more than the participants do.
The movie starts with the plight of Luciana, an undocumented immigrant from Barcelona. Apparently there’s some dire family situation there that she refuses to go back to, face, or deal with. This leaves her scrambling for menial cash-only gigs to try to get by. Before long this catches up with her as she suffers a series of financial difficulties.
In the midst of all this, she meets Olga. Sympathetic to Luciana’s plight, Olga gives her an address and tells her to show up in black dress but doesn’t provide further details on the gig itself. The desperate Luciana accepts and shows up at the specified location where she receives another address and a locked purse.
The tension starts immediately once we know that Luciana is more or less in hiding. It continues to ratchet up throughout the movie’s lean 80 minutes. The thing is, it’s a slow build that centers specifically on both lack of information and lack of control. Doesn’t hurt that it’s got shades of Hostel, especially Hostel 3 as this is an underground betting setup.
I’m gonna stop the plot summary right here because if you haven’t seen this is a well hidden little gem of a movie, it’s well worth diggin’ up. I will say that events don’t lead where many of us likely suspect they will. For some folks (you’ll know who you are when you get to the nature of the betting pool), where the plot actually goes will be far worse than where you probably thought it was going.
As for deeper meanings, there are so many directions to take this. We can start with the potentially fatal nature of the unknown. In other words, what you don’t know could kill you. There’s the plight of undocumented immigrants and the idea that being poor undermines your ability to even get a job. For example, Luciana has to con a store because she can’t afford the required dress and later a driver because she has no cab fare.
Luciana itself means “light,” and she does have a significant flash of enlightenment. It’s easy and apropos to read Luciana as “lucky” too. There’s also belly of the beast/journey to the underworld undertones along with exploitation, objectification, and the idea that the rich capitalize on people’s desperation (especially immigrants) for their own entertainment and derive joy from rendering people powerless. Kinda like, I dunno, Republicans.
Uplifting ain’t it?
BODIES- 1 offscreen (and it’s terrifying)
Stream- AMC+, IMDBTv, Kanopy, Pluto, Vudu
Rent- Apple TV, Google Play, Prime, YouTube